Senate Finance Commitee Debates Schumer’s “Level Playing Field” Public Option

September 29, 2009 11:00 a.m.

Introducing his public option amendment, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) cited many of the differences between his proposal and the more robust public option offered unsuccessfully by Jay Rockefeller: No providers would be forced to take public option insurance, and the government would not be allowed to set prices. These differences are crucial, and reformers don’t like them, but they do mean less government involvement and undermine the criticism of a number of conservative Senate Democrats. So let’s see how they vote.

3:06 p.m.: Bill Nelson, who voted against the Rockefeller public option, says “I will vote for the Schumer amendment.” Well, that clears that up.

3:16 p.m.: Kent Conrad says the fact that the Schumer amendment is an improvement over Rockefeller’s because it’s not tied to Medicare. But he says he worries that the House’s bill will be tied to Medicare, and now he’s saying he doesn’t like that it’s government run. He also continues to misconstrue the French health care system.

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3:20 p.m.: Conrad didn’t ultimately say whether he’d vote yes or no–he seems like a no, he’s probably a no, but let’s keep an eye out. He opposed the Rockefeller amendment on the grounds that it was tied to Medicare, but Schumer’s plan is specifically not designed that way. That dramatically undercuts his argument. What will he do?

3:27 p.m.: Chuck Grassley opposes the Schumer public option on the grounds that the government might subsidize it, or enhance it, at some point in the future.

3:35 p.m.: Rapid fire Republican opposition to the Schumer amendment: Ensign, Bunning, now Kyl. Many of them trying to square their opposition to the public option with their newly discovered, fulsome support of Medicare.

3:39 p.m.: That’s a new one! Jon Kyl’s new argument is that insurance commissioners and existing regulations and such already exist to keep insurance companies honest. Didn’t realize there wasn’t a big problem to be solved her. Phew!

3:42 p.m.: Maria Cantwell, cosponsor of the Schumer amendment, defending the public option. A vote should be forthcoming.

3:43 p.m.: Baucus says he will vote no on the grounds that he doesn’t think it can pass on the floor. Hmmm… Seems like he must’ve voted for stuff he knew couldn’t pass in the past.

3:54 p.m.: The Schumer proposal failed 10-13, with Sens. Kent Conrad (D-ND), Max Baucus (D-MT) and, by proxy, Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) voting with all Republicans against the amendment. The Finance bill will not have a public option.

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